South African State-Worker Unions Withdraw From Pay Agreement

Labor unions representing most of South Africa’s 1.3 million civil servants decided to withdraw from a three-year pay deal with the state because of a dispute over its implementation, a union spokesman said.

While a May 19 accord provides for a 7 percent rise in salaries from April 1 this year, government departments were told to increase them by 6.4 percent. State officials said the lower payment was justified because inflation increased less than forecast in the year that ended March 31, meaning workers had been overpaid under a previous three-year pay deal.

“The unions have decided to withdraw from the agreement” until the lawyers clarify the terms of the deal, Sizwe Pamla, a spokesman for the National Education Health & Allied Workers Union, said Thursday in a phone interview.

Brent Simon, a spokesman for the Public Service and Administration Ministry, said the government will refund the workers if the lawyers found it wasn’t entitled to claw back the overpayment.

“The unions are being a bit disingenuous,” he said by phone from Pretoria, the capital. The pay deal accepted by the unions in 2012 stipulated that salaries would be adjusted to reflect the actual inflation rate, Simon said.

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